Canadian-born Mac DeMarco embraced a very particular aesthetic at The Anthem on Sept. 20 — donning a vintage trucker hat, large ripped jeans, blue Vans and a mouthful of broken teeth, the multi-instrumentalist portrayed his distinct, casual and eccentric persona that has an infectious appeal, especially on stage.
DeMarco’s performance epitomized this quirkiness with a chaotic and undeniably engaging setlist. Moments after he started playing and the introductory screams faded, the audience became immediately entranced by his silly, lighthearted aesthetic, swaying to the music excitedly.
He started with tracks off his fourth and newest album, “Here Comes the Cowboy.” On this latest release, DeMarco pares back the production to keep focus on his lyrics, and the tracks feature mostly guitar and voice, with very few solos and long rests between notes.
The album benefits from its calm, relaxing pace and its slow-burning melodies, which add a level of beauty to his music. Live, DeMarco successfully created this atmosphere of emotional tranquility, as he repeated the song’s hypnotizing only verse, “Here Comes the Cowboy.”
With incredible ease, and certainly living up to his mission statement, DeMarco carefully plucked his rusty Stratocaster guitar, piercing through the crowd. His voice filled the comfortable gaps between the notes but maintained the audience’s attention by sporadically screaming out of pitch, keeping the audience on their toes.
The young crowd, dressed similar to DeMarco, reinforcing his cult of personality, nodded and laughed along. His comfortable and smoothly-paced songs created a sense of closeness and intimacy between himself and the individuals in the crowd. After about four songs, it became easy to tune out the mob and become completely engrossed in DeMarco’s aura of musicality.
He then played his more upbeat, signature hits, including “Salad Days” and “Freaking Out the Neighborhood.” The familiar lines, “Salad days are gone, missing hippy Jon / Remembering the days just to tell ’em so long,” animated the crowd as much as DeMarco’s wild performance. These more quickly paced songs still featured the same carefree spirit that kept his act consistent throughout the whole set.
DeMarco walked in small circles around the stage and spun his microphone on his hands like a basketball. Spontaneously, he took off his shirt and put on a bra someone had thrown on stage, embodying the main character of “Freaking out the Neighborhood,” the “first son [who] gets up to no good, starts freaking out the neighborhood.”
Pandering to his enraptured audience, DeMarco lamented on how long it had been since he had last seen his fans and talked about his appreciation for The Anthem as a venue. This was emblematic of the entire show and of DeMarco’s personality, chalk full of quirky idiosyncrasies that help him stand out from singer-songwriter contemporaries.
DeMarco played more crowd favorites and did his part to lull the crowd into a sense of relaxation and calmness. “Chamber of Reflection” was one of the final songs in his set, reinforcing the aura of solemnity in the venue with its atmospheric production and powerful vocals, which added more character to the song in a live setting.
As he finished his show, he pretended to leave the stage prematurely to solicit encore chants from the crowd, which succeeded. People screamed; he waited, then came back, and people screamed more. In a surprising twist, rather than playing his own songs, he decided to cover old rock ‘n’ roll hits instead.
DeMarco took the drumsticks and his drummer got up and sang an out-of-tune rendition of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box.” The encore featured a strange mix of goofy vocals and hard-rock covers. DeMarco conveyed his respect for 80s and 90s rock and its influence, then added his own flare to it by adapting it with his indie, lo-fi sound.
The audience had a mixed reaction, with some forming animated mosh pits in the audience, and a few others walking out early, having had enough of DeMarco’s big and perhaps brash personality.
Even though not everyone stayed and was engaged with that portion of the concert, the fans that remained matched his energy. DeMarco might have cut his original music shorter than some attendees may have expected, but his unfamiliar, unorthodox and rowdy show made for a memorable experience that devoted fans adored.